WesHEAL Pamphlet at Weshop Offers Holstic Remedies
Students at the University are known for searching out alternatives and eschewing proffered mainstream choices. At Weshop, you can apply this philosophy to your health. The checkout area now displays pamphlets on holistic remedies available for purchase at Weshop and intended to heal ailments from toothache to headache to stomach pain.
WesHEAL, a relatively new student group on campus, wrote and produced these pamphlets. Officially titled Wes Health Through Envisioning Alternative Lifestyles, the group was started last spring by Sonya Freeman ’12 in collaboration with Hannah Cressy ’13. The goal of the group is to promote integrative healing at Wesleyan—to open the minds of the student body to natural methods of healing.
The group does not intend to promote the superiority of holistic methods over Western medicine, but rather to demonstrate the advantages of blending the two.
“It is often perceived as difficult, or even impossible, to integrate methods of healing that come from different cultures,” Freeman said. “Perhaps these methods don’t fit together like puzzle pieces, but they can be used to assist each other.”
WesHEAL says that the new pamphlet is there to encourage the University students to consider opening their minds about healing and to advocate the use of various natural remedies for specific health problems. WesHEAL, which comprises about 15 members, collaborated with Medical Director Dr. Davis Smith and Director of Health Education Tanya Purdy to create the pamphlet. The writers of the pamphlet were very careful to back up all of their claims with research from scientific sources.
“If holistic medicine is going to come to be accepted in Western society, we need to take baby steps,” Freeman said. “That is, we need to view holistic medicine through the lens of allopathic medicine. Therefore, we made sure to cite all of the treatments in the pamphlet to validate their consistency with the scientific method.”
Some of the remedies the WesHEAL pamphlet suggests are well known, such as drinking honey and lemon in tea for a sore throat, or eating ginger for nausea or indigestion. Others are a little more surprising, like drinking diluted apple cider vinegar for a cough or for constipation. Another especially surprising suggestion found in the pamphlet is to spice your food with cayenne pepper to alleviate a cough or sore throat.
The pamphlet includes references and explanations behind many of the suggested remedies. One of the pamphlet’s sources, the University of Maryland Medical Center website, explains the science behind using cayenne medicinally. The spicy taste of cayenne comes from the chemical capsaicin, which prevents messages of pain from being sent to your brain. Cayenne is used as a remedy in many cultures for a wide variety of health issues, from digestive problems to muscle pain.
However, according to Smith, not all of these therapies are devoid of controversy. For example, cayenne may not be the safest remedy.
“It seems like a particularly lousy idea for a cough because if you aspirated some—breathed it into your lungs instead of swallowing it—it could act as a chemical irritant, like pepper spray or tear gas, and make a cough much worse,” he said.
Smith also commented on the pamphlet’s recommendation to eat raw garlic to boost your immune system. He explained that the research shows very conflicting messages about how effective raw garlic is, and that there may be some adverse side effects.
“Raw garlic can be irritating to the throat and GI [gastrointestinal] system,” he said.
Despite the controversial nature of raw garlic remedies, Evan Carmi ’13 says he has used this holistic healing method many times.
“When I start to feel sick, I’ll often eat a clove or two of raw garlic,” he said. “Sure, it might give me questionable breath for the next 48-72 hours, but I simply consider it another effective way that garlic prevents me from coming into contact with potential carriers of illness.”
Despite Smith’s uneasiness with raw garlic and cayenne pepper as cures, he does not consider himself an opponent of holistic medicine.
“I’m not a hater of alternative meds by any means, and some formerly ‘alternative’ interventions, like neti pots, are now mainstream,” Smith said. “I just like people to remember that just because something is natural doesn’t guarantee that it is without risk. Crocodiles, for example.”
The WesHEAL leaders report frequently using the remedies they recommend, evidently with no ill side effects. Freeman said that she cooks with garlic and ginger a lot, but has stayed away from raw garlic. Cressy said that she inhales steamed water with lavender or mint when she is congested.
All of the remedies promoted by WesHEAL are currently available at Weshop. Freeman emphasized that Weshop was decidedly supportive of their initiative, and was very willing to supply the things they advocated for, such as echinacea capsules and aromatherapy inhalers.
While some of the holistic remedies that Weshop now supplies are easy to find, many of the remedies, like the soothing lavender stick for anxiety, are located behind the counter, which makes them less noticeable. Various aromatherapy items have been there since last semester, but no one seems to buy them.
“I have never had to restock them,” said Molly Balsam ’14, who works at WeShop.
Saumya Chatrath ’13, a Weshop customer, seemed uninterested in purchasing holistic health items like the Aura Cacia Soothing Peppermint Stick, even upon learning that they are available behind the counter at the store.
“I drink hot tea with honey when I’m sick,” Chatrath said. “That’s holistic. I also like to heal myself with lots of TV and online shopping—that’s holistic too.”
In terms of larger changes to campus health policies, the move toward holistic medicine might gain some headway in Davison Health Center, so long as it can be proved safe as well as medically and economically effective.
“It might be nice to offer an alternative medicine cold pack,” Smith said. “I’d need someone to do some homework on the safety and efficacy of components and they’d have to be very affordable and available in packaging that we can responsibly distribute.”
Freeman, who hopes to one day become a doctor, believes that even if these homeopathic, alternative therapies are not yet fully accepted or even acknowledged at the University, their existence and availability is important to how students approach their health.
“In order to be a good doctor, you have to keep an open mind,” Freeman said.
Freeman hopes that the pamphlet encourages students to consider other options, and wishes to remind students that there is more than one way to alleviate an ailment.